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Top 10 Mass Graves

Ryan Thomas . . . Comments

Revering the dead is a purely human ideal; unfortunately, it is only an ideal. There have been many occasions – scattered like ashes throughout history – where the dead have been treated less than favorably, sometimes downright improperly. Bodies were, in these haphazard and callous instances, not placed in a finished mahogany beneath a smooth slab of granite, but rather piled up like stacks of rotten meat. Each of these dead, lying like sardines in unlabeled cans, seem to die into a form of irrevocable anonymity. Perhaps though, remembering these individuals as part of a larger number is a way of remembering these individuals as one part of history we hope never repeats itself. In doing so, here are the top ten mass graves:


Maguindanao Massacre


Just 3 years ago, the most brutal mass-murder in journalistic history took place, in which at least 34 journalists were deliberately killed as casualties of political terrorism. There was tension in Maguindanao (a province of an island in the Philippines) as an election was underway; two rivaling members of the same party running for the same office. Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who was filing his certificate of candidacy, received threats that his rivals (supporters of the Andal Ampatuan, Sr. family) would cut him up into little piece afterwards. Thinking a battalion of journalists would prevent such things from occurring, he invited 37 of them to accompany him. Unfortunately, they were no deterrent, as his caravan was stopped by 100 armed men who went on to slaughter all or most of Mangudadatu’s group in the most heinous of ways (e.g. women, some who were journalists, were raped and shot in the genitals). They were all set to be buried in a mass grave dug two days earlier (along with their vehicles), until they were caught in the act by a helicopter. A shovel found near the site bore the name Ampatuan. A total of 58 people were killed, a count which included – aside from an exceptionally high journalist count – Mangudadatu’s wife (who sent him a text upon recognizing the attackers as Ampatuan’s men), his two sisters, as well as some lawyers and aides.


Duraiappa Stadium

Stadiumgrave Skeleton

This sports stadium was just one casualty of a Sri Lankan civil war that was responsible for over 65,000 deaths. It was damaged structurally and abandoned during conflict, and its renovation – this was back in 1999 – should have been a sign of comfort. That was until some workers digging into the foundation collided with boney remains. What was discovered was the compacted, skeletal remains of 25 bodies, two of which were children. While there is some mystery about the circumstances surrounding this mass grave – and apparently proper forensic methods weren’t used in the uncovering and could have destroyed necessary evidence – 12,000 civilians are said to have gone missing since the start of the conflict, and a number of residents are still looking for their missing family members, hoping this grave might put their minds at (relative) ease.


Crab Island


This island situated on upstate New York’s Lake Champlain was used as a hospital during the 1814 Battle of Plattsburgh for American and British troops. Being the nearest island to the ground where actual conflict took place, the dead – some of whom washed up on shore – were packed in rows in a mass grave-site south of the hospital. All but respected officers – who received proper graves – were lumped together in nameless piles. Only in 1908 were these men, who indeed had names and distinct identities, commemorated by way of a Congress-commissioned granite obelisk. Although, still no one’s gone so far as to memorialize these men individually.




As if we need more proof of how sinister this world and the people in it can be, the Vukovar massacre stands as one more testament to the existence of human evil. Taking place in 1991 just outside the city of Vukovar, which was winding down from battle, the 264 mostly Croatian victims were largely civilians and hospital patients shipped into the prison camp of the Serb militants. Most were executed by shooting, while some were beaten to death-, the bodies were crudely dumped in an unearthed trench and bull-dozed back over. Seven men deemed responsible have since been charged with committing these horrific war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (Yugoslav military leaders Veselin Šljivančanin and Mile Mrkšić have been convicted, while a few others died before trial and/or committed suicide).


Hart Island


The island was used as a Prisoner of War camp during the Civil War in 1865, and Confederates who died there were buried on the island, along with Union soldiers whose remains were eventually relocated. But the real morbid stuff is that which follows the war; after New York City bought the island in 1869, they decided to use the grounds to unload their dead. A particularly chilling New York Times article titled “Where the Unknown Dead Rest” from 1874 goes on to delineate the procedure by which the deceased are handled, and just how stolidly: unidentified bodies and remains of adults and children are dumped in “common trenches,” but not without a photograph taken at a time when “the process of decomposition is not too far advanced.” Photographs and plots were given corresponding numbers so potential relatives could, upon identifying a body, provide a proper burial. But often times these faceless corpses were presumed friendless (some having died by suicide), while other relatives were simply too poor to afford a traditional (and much more respectful) burial.


Plague Pits in Great Britain


When the Bubonic plague (a.k.a. “Black Death”) ravaged Europe in the 14th century, traditional burial methods had collapsed under the weight of one-to-two-thirds of Europe in corpses. Traditional procession were reserved for the wealthy, or else just deemed too ridiculous with a pile-up that overwhelming. This kind of practice became standard procedure in times of plague, such as when plague struck again in England in the form of the Great Plague of 1665 (this time killing 100,000 people, which is about 20% of London’s population).


Saddam’s Iraq


Iraq is basically one big mass burial ground; since the 1980s it has provided pockets of earth in which victims of genocide (mostly against Kurds, as in 1983), massacre, and execution have been laid to waste. There are 250 reported mass grave-sites (40 of which have been confirmed), and a million missing Iraqis – a hundred-thousand of which are presumed to be in one of these collective plots. Some of the most notorious Iraqi auto-atrocities include the rounding up of 8,000 Kurds in 1983 and their execution in the middle of some remote desert; chemical attacks between 1986 and 1988 where the Iraqi Air Force dropped poison on Kurdish villages, killing 5,000 outright (with many more suffering long-term corrosive health defects); and 1988’s Anfal Campaign which resulted in 182,000 missing Kurdi families, with the remains of many wives and children turning up in mass graves.




Mass graves in Chechnya have started turning up by the bushel since the start of the Chechen War in 1994. As of 2008, 57 mass burial sites have been located, which may contain thousands of bodies, 5,000 of which are civilians who disappeared amidst the Second Chechen War in 1999. The largest mass grave of them all is in Grozny and contains 800 bodies (from the First Chechen War). While some countries might go so far as to try to help identify the various bodies for grieving relatives, Russia has a general “Do Not Exhume” policy.


Stalin’s Soviet Union

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Amidst a totalitarian Soviet Union, and under the crushing hammer of Joseph Stalin, great numbers of Soviet citizens as well as foreigners were executed outright by the famous “secret police” – most popularly via a bullet to the base of the skull – in numbers that reached 700,000 (all dumped in mass graves) by the time of the Great Purge of 1937-1938, whereby all of Stalin’s political opponents were effectively silenced. This was the ultimate means to put the fear of Stalin into the Soviet people’s hearts – fear which can quite easily be fashioned into a crude, desperate kind of loyalty by those who wish to not meet the fates of their neighbors. The graves which are scattered all about the former U.S.S.R. are turning up all the time, with horrifying body counts – in Bykivnia, 120,000-250,000; Kurapaty, 30,000 to 200,000; Butovo, more than 20,000; and Sandarmokh, more than 9,000 dead.


The Killing Fields in Cambodia


Pol Pot is one more name to add to a list which includes the likes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, as genocide by the staggering numbers was what he was best known for. He has 20,000 mass grave-sites in his name, containing a minimum of 1.38 million bodies. Amongst them are: anyone associated with (or even suspected of) the former government, intellectuals/professionals, and a variety of ethnic/religious groups his regime singled out. His Kmer Rouge regime only lasted from the end of the Cambodian Civil War (1975) to 1979, but in that time he accomplished a great deal of evil.

  • TeabagSteve

    That’s hot.

    • greensmurf

      …your comment is spam

      ….nothing on mass graves in Ireland from the famine? Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin is the final resting place for over 1.1 million people (a 1/4 of today’s population) no all, of course, mass graves, but quite a few.

      • Ni99a

        The reason its not in there is because JFagter has edited the list prior to publishing.

        He only puts what he thinks is worthy of being on the list.

        So Irish grave and the Babi Yar thingy can F.U.C.K OFF according to JFagter.

        • greensmurf


        • shutup

          ‘JFagter’ – what a douche. If you don’t like his site then bugger off somewhere else.

          • greensmurf

            relax man…if you don’t like the comments, either, don’t read them, or don’t comment…….it’s a free world……child

          • James

            A free world in which evidently, some people decide to use their slice of freedom to be idiots.

  • Feels weird to ‘like’ this article; but it also reflects on that whole forgetting the past and being doomed to repeat it line. Someone needs to make us aware of these atrocities so why not you, Ryan?

  • Fab

    Babi Yar

    • Truthseeker

      Why are there no Holocaust Mass Graves? Because the story is that these bodies, all 750,000, excuse me but the number just keeps going up and is now 850,000 bodies were exhumed and burned out in the open air using fat women at the bottom (they had more fat and thus burned with ease.) and some kindling (never mind the rain, snow, wind, etc…and that it’s impossible to do!) and they’re bones / teeth were crushed with rocks by hand. Unbelievable huh?…because it IS unbelievable!

  • dee

    wow horrible!!

    • Ni99a

      Yeah… because wow is a proper expression in this context.

      • James

        Despite your sarcasm, you’re actually correct. ‘Wow’ is a perfectly acceptable expression here, or in any context that evokes surprise.

  • katsumuro

    You put Vukovar on the list and you don’t even mention what went down in Bosnia? This list should have been named random 10 mass graves not top 10 mass graves cause aside from a few there are were way bigger mass graves than most of the ones on this list

  • Great list, but what about Babi Yar & and the other places where the SS Einsatzgruppen murdered & buried hundreds of thousands of Jews before the extermination camps came into play? Also the infamous Katyn Wood, where the Soviets shot & buried thousands of Polish officers in 1940.

  • it is sad cant say anything more..its sad

    • Ni99a

      Yeah… its sad:( Oh well lets see whats on today :)

  • Me

    and to date the families of the victims of the maguindanao massacre haven’t got any justice yet.. i hate the justice system here in the philippines, it only moves (slowly) for the rich…

    • Ni99a

      Yup, them pirates and rapists. They are all the same.

      They play good b-ball though.

  • Jakeryder

    I expected to see the catacombs of Paris.

    • Arghhh

      Me too, considering there are millions of unidentified skeletons down there.

    • Ni99a

      Ahh… the catacombs. You know, I used to go in there and sneak out a few skulls myself.

      Then when I went home, I would stack them together and do some shooting practice with my GSR handgun.

      • Good1

        Ahh… This is such a believable story.

        Sometimes if you wish hard enough and tell it to the internet, these wondrous things become a part of ones own life!

    • Maggot

      catacombs of Paris

      Well that’s an interesting suggestion, but I would argue that it does not fit this list. Otherwise, why not just name any cemetery or mausoleum as a “mass grave site”? While the Paris catacombs do contain the anonymous (and “piled”) remains of millions, they were not just disrespectfully and unceremoniously dumped there. They were placed there with reverence. That’s an important distinction as defined in the list intro, and I think therefore disqualifies the Paris catacombs from this list.

      • Arghhh

        I don’t know, behind the retaining wall of skulls and femurs and whatever the bones are pretty much just dumped there. Also the manner in which the bodies were exhumed several years after being buried and then arranged in the catacombs is pretty revolting. Of course it was all done to prevent overcrowding in Paris’s cemeteries. It’s a bit like the plague pits, too many bodies and not enough room (or time) to dispose of all of them properly. I guess that’s what sets them apart from other entries on the list, they weren’t there to hide hundreds or thousands of bodies that had been brutally murdered for whatever reason, but simply because it wasn’t possible to bury each set of remains separately.

        • mom424

          They’re still venerated and not anonymous. Well didn’t start out that way…not the same.

      • Eslam

        Bon Voyage!! Sounds wonderful.We took the faimly on the Staten Island Ferry yesterday. That felt like a haul. I look forward to the day when I might be able to plan such a journey!!!Love,Anne

  • BlueFox94

    I was hoping that, somewhere in #1, there would be a reference to Roland Joffé’s 1984 film “THE KILLING FIELDS” which won several Oscars, including Supporting Actor for non-actor Dr. Haing S. Ngor who actually experienced the tragedy first-hand.

    • Ni99a

      Nobody cares about your personal interest so you can kindly f.uck off.

      • NI99ATROLLA

        living proof that people f.uck monkeys

        • mom424

          Obviously. Monkeys have more sense than to have anything to do with that fella’s relatives.

  • Missy

    Probably lots of these graves around the world.

    • Ni99a

      Oh you don’t say! You don’t say!!

      • Missy

        Yes, I do say……so there!….hmm….I like that.

  • Jimbo

    I studied mass violence and genocide at university and was worried this list was going to be one of those woefully uninformed entries that sometimes crop up from time to time on the site.

    I was happily surprised that you did make a pretty good list and I agree for the most part with the order. Although some of the facts are a little off (seems like you took the top end of most estimates to make some sound worse). Although ironically you took one of the lower estimates for Cambodia, it is estimated now that perhaps 2.5 million people could be found in killing fields (that’s the top estimate, lower estimates are now about 1.8 million). You also failed to point out that about 2/5 of Cambodia’s population was killed by the regime – a pretty frightening statistic.

    Oh, and you spelt Khmer Rouge wrong, there’s a h in there. I think you should have beefed up the final entry, as it seems to be the smallest entry but should be the biggest. Include something about the concept of year zero too.

    • Jimbo

      Oh, and I also agree with a previous commenter that it’s strange you didn’t include any of the third reich’s atrocities. I know it’s been done to death and everyone knows about it more than these ones, but I still think it’s pretty important.

    • Ni99a

      You studied mass violence and genocide at university?
      That’s cool, oh yeah I’ll have fries with that thank you.

      • Ni99a, you crazy.

      • Jimbo

        ha, I love those jokes, I make them often. I won’t be an internet tough guy but I studied history and politics and then did a masters in political science. And even though that qualified me for nothing, I enjoyed it, and am well educated so I have that to show off about. Oh, and I have a pretty awesome job earning more than enough money to do all the shit I want to do.

        • Ni99a

          What did you researched on for your masters?

          • asd.

            He did researched on grammar.

  • Public Enema

    Mexico has mass graves galore

    • Ni99a

      This list’s comment section is starting to look like everyone is trying to show off their mass graves.

      Way to go people. I am sure the whole world is envious of you guys

  • Amrendra

    What about so many mass graves which were created by the Nazis at the concentration camps like Auschwitz and Birkenau.

    • Ni99a

      If it ain’t on the list it ain’t big.

      • Brooklynite

        stfu ni99a nobody cares about what you

        • ni99a

          What I what? Huh punk? What? You want a piece of this?

        • LuvsHorror

          Booya, Brook, ni99a is just being an annoying troll. And we all know trolls are ugly and have tiny dicks.

          • Ni99a

            Not what your ogre mom said.

      • Onlythistime

        Lol… Ni99a, i like u man… lol!!!

  • Jango


    Have you heard of it?

    • Allie

      You are so right. It’s disgusting how no one considers the genocide in Rwanda.

    • Kamerad

      Im sure Africa in general has a massive amount.

  • Flippant

    Hitler had it right, he just burned the damn bodies.

    • ni99a

      Yea, he baked them alright.

  • Samzilla

    In regards to the first line of the intro, I’m pretty sure elephants revere thier dead as well.

  • Justin

    An interesting list about an awful subject.


  • Allie

    Does anyone else notice how the Holocaust is not even mention here? The concentration camps held thousands of bodies in giant graves and they don’t even deserve a mention apparently.

  • Chloe

    All the mass graves in the holocaust.

  • LavendR

    What about the Holocaust? I thought that would be no. 1 or at least an add-on (since it is the most famous and obvious case of mass graves)
    horrible omission.

  • Really gruesome, but I think worthy or remembrance.

  • What about the mass graves during the Holocaust! thats important I think, It shaped world History! (unless the mass grave wasn’t yet found!

  • Ned Niedlander

    Interesting subject, fairly well researched (a few glaring omissions i.e. Srebrenica) but as always with Mr. Thomas’ lists, atrociously written. His similes are ridiculous and even though he has tried to prove he values human life more than his ’10 rock concerts that were really messed up’ list, he still has very little concept of what human suffering is and his faux attempt to seem sincere just makes him look worse

  • Jonesin

    Elephents actually have rituals and ceremonies while burrying members of their family. So Humans aren’t the only ones who rever their dead. Just and interesting little tidbit of information :)

  • HenryMeeks

    Where are the mass graves of the 3rd Reich on this list, people think Adolf Hitler just burned the bodies. But there are actually mass graves spread throughout Europe still undiscovered today…the estimates of buried people from the Holocaust range from 1.5-2 million people, i think that deserves recognition.

  • How could Mao’s China not be included? WTF? 40 – 70 million dead and miss that? Come on!

    • Lifeschool

      Have they found the mass graves?

      • Canadianguy

        As a matter of fact, I’ve been to a few sites where they’ve been found. They have been quite a few of them found here in South Korea (Yes, Korea. For Mao, the Korean War was also an opportunity to purge).

  • Black Ninja Cat

    Not a good list to read while having dinner – the thought of all these dead bodies are making me a bit queezy! Very interesting read though – must say, Ryan Thomas is writing the types of lists that use to bring me to listverse – so looking forward to the next one! Keep up the good work.
    PS: Ni99a – I have a mass grave in my backyard, want to join the other trolls in there?

  • Charles

    This list was too Eastern European

  • Black Ninja Cat

    Charles, you’re joining Ni99a in the troll hole!

  • ujmoldovia

    What about the Ottoman massacre of the Armenians?

  • Lifeschool

    A Massing! A Ryan Thomas list which actually had some balls! A cut above the usual writing and a unique subject. Yes the sweeping generalisations and observations in the intro I can live without, but the list felt far less dumb than usual. I’d give this a B for effort. ;)

  • Ze

    What? Where is the Rwandan genocide? The Jews genocide? the writer should have investigated more …

  • Black Ninja Cat

    Ze – maybe he wanted to include things on his list that people haven’t heard about 10 000 times.

  • murpheyslawyer

    I thought we were going to have moderators to keep trolls like “ni99a” from ruining the comments section??

    • Flippant

      Freedom of speech d.ick hole
      Great to be an American

      • Maggot

        “Freedom of speech” is not an absolute, and it particularly does not apply in a moderated forum of a website or blog that is sponsored by a private interest. I mean, you even purposely altered a word in your own post just to bypass this site’s censoring, which means you contradicted yourself in your own statement and didn’t even realize it. Way to go, Einstein.

        • Heidi

          good point’s, well made :)

          • Maggs has the ability to think logically and clearly (not always the same thing) and make well thought out comments. I often wonder if he isn’t a lawyer.

      • murpheyslawyer

        Flippant, do you not have anything better to do? Maybe some ants to light on fire or mail boxes to knock over?

  • michael

    I cant understand how america didnt take number one with all the native american tribes that were dumped in mass graves! Some tribes put into extinction cause of murders by europeans! The number of mass graves in each state would have to be over 1000! So doing the math on that for 50 states
    also including Canada would come to over 50 million plus!

    • Norkio

      Do you have any facts to back that up? I’m curious because where I live in the US the natives were often buried in graves by the local priests, or they had native burial traditions that were followed. Doubt there are 1000 mass graves in this state.

  • This list puts the matter… to rest.

  • Alahsnackbar

    Europe is just one massive graveyard.

    • Bit harsh, but then again the middle ages was endless battles and then both world wars really pushed the limit of how many people you can put in a grave, so yeah probably right :)

  • Ms Medieval

    Writing about death works well with you Ryan…. thoroughly enjoyed this, as much as one could anyways with such a grim topic.

  • Heidi

    morbid ;) but interesting list (also, thankfully for me, short on over-emotive details) and the second list of Mr Thomas’ that I’ve found interesting! Thanks :)

  • David

    lol @ people thinking the holocaust actually happened

    • asad

      Your parents loving you never happened.

    • Whats the truth about what happened then?

  • It is better if there would be a disaster-related mass grave included in this list! Like the 2004 Tsunami ! At least one!

  • srlrsozukzbk


  • notmebuthim

    I was surprised you put Vukovar on the list, but failed even to mention Srebrenica. The massacres were done by Serbs on both occasions but in Srebrenica there were 8732 innocent victims compared to 264. Not really the top 10 mass graves.

  • Peter

    Am I the only person who think the name, “The Black Death,” sounds badass? Also, some guy digging up a Plague-Pit CAUGHT The Black Death. Amazingly, it can last for centuries. (he survived)

  • Might want to try a different title for a post about Mass Graves, good though :)

  • taemokokey

    Maguindanao Massacre is just sick. women were raped, breast were cut off, shot in the genitals, men were castrated and buried alive in their vehicles. were is the justice in this one?

  • mom424

    Unfortunately there is no end of candidates for this list. Good job on a horrid topic.

  • E Flat Minor

    It is odd how those who claim that they stand for things like freedom, equality and tolerance use the exact same slogans and symbols used in the former Soviet Union. Something is not right here. It’s like a pretty doll in a nice colorful dress… yet so creepy.

  • Piotrek

    I think Katy? merits a mention.

  • Pauly

    I read this far into the comments, and found no Holocaust denial or tales of how Serbs killed no Bosniaks in the ’90s.

    A new day has dawned.

    P.S.-if you ‘re looking to troll this comment, TOO LATE.

  • andya

    rwanda 1994?

  • svcenewerasad


  • mskltan

    My mother dug graves as a young girl during Pol Pot’s regime.